THE referees have pushed their weight behind the campaign to adopt the experimental disciplinary rules at next weekend’s Congress in Cork.
The chairman of the national referees committee, PJ McGrath, feels that the rules have made the officials’ jobs easier.
Speaking at yesterday’s function to honour the Vodafone Referees of the Year for 2008, Barry O’Kelly (hurling) and Maurice Deegan (football), McGrath also revealed that at a recent seminar more than 100 whistle-blowers had voted unanimously in favour of the measures.
“I think they’ve gone very well as an experiment and I would hope they would be passed at Congress as well because they’re very defined as far as referees are concerned,” said the Mayo man, who famously refereed the 1982 All-Ireland football final in which Offaly denied Kerry the five-in-a-row.
“This is particularly the case for the red cards and yellow cards. They are totally defined and there’s no excuse. It’s either a red card or a yellow card. The black card is at a referee’s discretion but there’s no harm in having a bit of discretion as well because things happen in a match that need taking care of as well.
“Certainly if the red cards and red cards were passed I’d be very happy and the referees would as well. I think it’s very important to the progression of the games.”
The key for the men in the middle, says McGrath, is that contrary to some opinions expressed at the beginning of the year, there is no doubt about what will happen in given situations.
“The rules have never been defined as they are in this group now. We had a referees’ seminar very recently in Athlone and it was unanimous. The decision of over 100 of our top national referees in both hurling and football were unanimous that they want to see the rules get through.
“It’s the same for both codes. Both sides said that it was well worthwhile trying them out and that it’s the way to go.”
McGrath praised the work of the GAA’s Head of Games, Pat Daly, in selling the rules and educating people on them, adding that this process ensured that the referees went into the opening weeks of their implementation in a relaxed state of mind.
“Pat Daly took the initiative and he went out to talk to people, managers, teams; anyone that wants to talk to Pat, he’s prepared to talk to them. He’s been doing the provinces and some of the counties. He’s presented to them the differences between the new rules and the old rules so that they could see for themselves and that’s made it easier on everyone.”
Those differences include a more open, entertaining, flowing game with less frees, according to McGrath, and passages of play extending to as much as four and a half minutes now, whereas in the past, the maximum was around two minutes.
These are among the reasons why outgoing GAA president Nickey Brennan is also in favour of the rules, even though fellow Kilkenny man Brian Cody is opposed.
“I’m aware we’re coming from different angles on that and rather ironically, the Kilkenny county board were split down the middle on it, so we’ll call that an honourable draw between myself and Brian Cody and I suppose getting a draw with Brian Cody in this day and age is probably a victory,” he laughed.
“I’ve said all along that these experimental disciplinary rules have been very good for our Association.”
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